MASERU – Main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) leader Mathibeli Mokhothu has quashed mounting speculation that he is talking to the ruling ABC in a bid to forming a coalition government should the infighting rocking the party lead to a split.
Instead, he said: “All we want now is elections”. Speaking to Public Eye last night, Mokhothu, who is Official Leader of Opposition in parliament, also scoffed at widespread rumours that in pursuit of a possible government between the DC and ABC, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s government had given him five vehicles with which to tour constituencies.
He sarcastically noted that if his party had more resources “politicians, especially those in government, would lose sleep”. According to Mokhothu, the rumours were instigated by political parties both in government and in opposition, which were threatened by the rapid growth of the DC and feared that anyone who associated with Thabane stood the risk of losing to the DC “hence they associate the DC with Ntate Thabane’s faction”.
“That is absurd! I have been touring the length and breadth of Lesotho since my election as DC leader, addressing political rallies left, right and centre. I have not supported any of the ABC factions. “I have actually blasted them, castigated them both. There has never been a time when I have not criticised Thabane’s government for its bad policies. I have no soft spot for either of the factions,” Mokhothu said.
“Those rumours are unfounded. DC now wants elections, not to enter into a coalition government of convenience. DC is not interested in a patchwork government. We want to win all the constituencies because we have realised that coalition governments ravage the public purse.” He added: “We are going constituency by constituency because we want to build DC. That’s why prophets of doom will label DC and associate it with ABC factions because they are unable to challenge issues of development that we have been raising as we tour constituencies.”
DC has been associated with a faction of the ABC referred to as the State House Camp supportive of party leader Thabane, which has been at loggerheads with the Likatana faction backing the newly-elected Deputy Leader Professor Nqosa Mahao.
As the infighting which has resulted in a court application which challenges the legitimacy of the new ABC intensified, the DC was drawn into the mess, with naysayers alleging that the party’s former founding leader, Dr Pakalitha Mosisili, had advised Mokhothu to consider Thabane’s alleged offer to form a coalition administration with the main opposition, in order to have access to state resources for the sake of the party’s growth.
But Mokhothu has refuted the allegations, saying the DC was not “interested in a coalition government” because “they have failed Lesotho”. The DC leader further asserted that since the introduction of coalition governments, the first of which was borne of a hung parliament post the 2012 general polls, he had realised that such administrations were costly to the public as they were used as “grounds of opportunism for people who have lost the spirit of patriotism”.
“I have told people that coalition governments are very expensive and heavy on the public purse. I want a situation where the DC wins the majority of constituencies and we just establish a coalition government with other parties because it is a DC policy, not because we are at their mercy because they are kingmakers,” Mokhothu said.
“One of the DC’s principles is to unite this nation and the partners that we are working with today are the same parties that we will be working with when we become government.
“They will be joining us because they approve of how DC does things and that DC will lead. Yes, we need to win the majority of seats in parliament, that is, more than 61 seats to govern.”
Mokhothu added that it was imperative for the DC to grow and become strong enough to win majority seats in parliament in order to govern because the party had graduated from the common understanding among Lesotho politicians of forming coalition governments with a view “to raid the public purse” adding “coalition governments in Lesotho undermine democracy”.
“Going forward, the partners that we invite into our government should understand and appreciate the DC’s vision. We need to restore peace and stability as well as economic growth in Lesotho.
“We need to move from the status quo where being in cabinet is about what political parties are getting and not the advancement of the country and its citizenry,” Mokhothu said.
“Coalition governments are not for the benefit of this country, economic growth and stability. If anything, they have rendered our democracy vulnerable to opportunists. There is evidence from as far back as 2012 that coalitions have been exploited for all the wrong reasons and we are fed-up with that. We are quite fed-up with coalition governments that always lead Basotho to snap elections.”
In driving his point home, Mokhothu noted that coalition governments no longer had a place in Lesotho’s democracy because they were used as a platform to “play politics of yesterday while we are talking politics of the future”.
Asked if elections would not worsen financial hardships for Lesotho, Mokhothu was adamant that despite the economic and political challenges facing the country, Lesotho could afford elections and that it was critical that the country called fresh polls “so that we can all seek a fresh mandate”.
According to Mokhothu, calling fresh elections would not hit the public purse hard as it would set the country back by M350 million, which he said was equal to the amount that parliament allocates to one government ministry during budget appropriations.
“M350 million is money that is equal to what is allocated one government ministry. There’s never going to be a time when Lesotho cannot hold elections because of the cost,” Mokhothu said.
“Of course, that would mean putting certain projects on hold in order to make way for snap elections.”
Calling fresh elections, Mokhothu stressed, would produce different results as Basotho should have by now learnt that it was imperative to lean towards one political party when they voted.
“Basotho should have learnt that it is important to vote for one political party in their majority, and that other parties should be brought into government for the pursuit of national unity, which we pray and hope will come to be.
“If we bring people to cabinet as a matter of principle and not for opportunities, it means that unlike now they will not be able to make demands while also exerting pressure of the leading party,” Mokhothu said.
“Secondly, we will be able to downsize to a smaller and more dignified cabinet, instead of the bloated one we have as the result of coalitions that are not founded on principle. We will have a meaningful cabinet which will, in turn, relieve the burden on the taxpayer and focus the money on appropriate projects.”
Mokhothu said having been a cabinet minister under former premier Mosisili’s 2015 to 2017 coalition government, he had learnt golden lessons which enabled him to tell “when Thabane’s government is failing” and “what my government will do differently”.
“An expensive cabinet due to its bloated size, managing the huge wage bill in the civil and growing the economy are supposed to be areas of focus when we become government.
“This country’s finance ministers in succession have identified dwindling Southern African Customs Union (SACU) revenues as a problem, but neither of them provided solutions on how the economy can be stimulated on the ground,” Mokhothu said.
“Should DC attain government power, instead of emulating this government that’s killing the economy, we will rescue this country for the sake of this country’s peace and sovereignty.
“There’s no way that you can claim to be a sovereign country when you don’t have a thriving economy. This country imports almost everything, which means we are a market for other countries.”
It was disheartening that Lesotho did not have a national economy, Mokhothu lamented, adding that “being a nation that consumes instead of being one that produces is to our detriment”.
He said his government would put in place policies that stimulated the economy and placed Lesotho in a position “where we produce for both the local and international market”.